Mark S. Weiner

Archive for November, 2012|Monthly archive page

An Update from Europe

In Autobiographical, Europe on November 29, 2012 at 6:14 pm

Greetings from lovely Würzburg, Germany, where I arrived earlier today on a high-speed train from Luxembourg—and immediately made plans to visit the Christmas market. I’m in a nice hotel, and I’m surrounded by clothes I’ve washed in the sink and strung about the room to dry. Tomorrow I begin teaching an intensive class on U.S. constitutional law to students who are enrolled in a university program on intercultural competence.

Thanks to everyone who wrote to ask when the next post is coming and to give me a nudge. It really means a lot to me. I’ve had only spotty internet service since arriving in Europe, but in a few days I hope to post some reflections on my trip so far.

And it’s been quite a trip.

Over the past eleven days, I’ve spoken about The Rule of the Clan at Erasmus law school in Rotterdam (gleaming, vibrant, international, and peppered with campus construction projects); interviewed numerous students and faculty there about their views of modern Dutch law (question: if your law were a composer or a style of music, which would it be and why?); strolled all afternoon through beautiful, stately Maastricht while conversing with a friend about the legal systems of the world (and sampled an everyday Dutch delight: veal-filled croquettes); donned Dutch academic robes to attend a surprisingly dramatic dissertation defense on Roman legal history at Tilburg law school (in the midst of the candidate’s discussion of the praetor urbanus, someone fainted!); decided how much I really, really like the Netherlands; the next day visited the ruins of the Black Gate in Trier, Germany and contemplated Rome’s glory; wandered through the EU quarter in Luxembourg on a drizzly morning, slowly getting wet as I snapped pictures of the European Court of Justice (see below); interviewed a Danish and a German member of the office of legal advisor for the European parliament (lunch in the EU cafeteria was grand—red and white wine was on offer by the glass!); walked for two solid days through Brussels looking at EU institutions, including a brand-new museum devoted to the development of parliament; attended a lively rally of farmers demanding higher milk subsidies and suffered a bit of smoke inhalation from the billowing red and green smoke bombs strewn about the cobblestoned plaza; interviewed a Dutch member of the parliament’s office of legal advisor who eloquently explained why European Union law is like jazz; stumbled upon a noisy and cheerful rally celebrating one-hundred years of Albanian independence; observed a Belgian court case in the Palace of Justice and learned that family law disputes take on a special air when held beneath a 20-foot mural depicting a nineteenth-century cavalry regiment; wandered through the Museum of Fine Arts amidst a hundred attentive French-speaking schoolchildren; and, tonight, ate bratwurst and drank mulled wine in a Christmas market with four young German legal scholars.

Plus I’ve seen old friends and made many new ones. And began learning a whole lot more about my camera.

It’s been a great trip so far, and I’m hopeful that what will come out of it is lots of stories to share on this blog and in my next book.

But the stories will have to wait for just a little while. Until next time, I wanted to share a few pictures from my travels, which I’ve been undertaking with all of you always on my mind.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Beauty of the Code

In Aesthetics, narrative, form, Books and libraries, Conversations, Europe, Law and literature, Video on November 18, 2012 at 5:03 pm

This is the first in a series of videos I’ll be posting during my travels in Europe: a five-minute conversation about a small, beautiful law book. An earlier posting of the video was removed to correct an error. To see a larger version, click on the title above. The video is with compliments to my former student Delilah and her husband Carlos.

Kirkus Reviews on The Rule of the Clan

In Rule of the Clan on November 9, 2012 at 10:33 am

I’m delighted to report that the first pre-publication review of The Rule of the Clan has just appeared in Kirkus Reviews! The reviewer writes the following:

“A compelling argument about the indispensable function of the modern liberal state as a bulwark for individual freedom against traditional kinship-based clan forms of social organization.

“Weiner (Constitutional Law and Legal History/Rutgers School of Law; Americans Without Law: The Racial Boundaries of Citizenship, 2008, etc.) asserts that, in the wake of the recent financial crisis, current calls to ‘engage in the wholesale dismantling of public institutions’ have the potential to be ‘a catastrophe for individual freedom.’ He forcefully presents the case that individual rights will be weakened, not strengthened, by the diminution of state power. Personal liberty will be challenged due to the need of people to place greater reliance on the family structure to ensure survival. This decentralization will enhance the power of the kin-based group, with its collectivist organization of honor and blood feud and social justice among kin.

“The author presents legal, historical and current political contexts for his case, drawing from the work of the British legal historian Henry Sumner Maine, who distinguished between societies of ‘status’ and societies based on ‘contract’ for a foundation. Weiner also presents anthropological studies of the Nuer in Sudan and tribal organization throughout the Arab world and the Indian subcontinent. The author turns to Icelandic and Anglo-Saxon history to show how clans and the liberal state have coexisted in the past and continue to do so. He makes a convincing case that it is the strength of the clan structure, rather than the Islamic religious worldview, that breeds terrorism in countries such as Pakistan or Syria. Romeo and Juliet and Walter Scott’s Waverley also provide grist for the author’s mill. Weiner believes that modern liberal states can support the constitutional development of clan-based societies by supporting the professional classes.

“A highly revealing study with global implications.”

On the occasion of this first, positive review, I want to take a moment to thank the extraordinary team of professionals at Farrar, Straus and Giroux, who have been exceptional at every moment of the process of bringing this book toward publication (the book will be released in March). I’m so pleased to be with a house that upholds the highest ideals of American publishing. It fills me with profound happiness.


Endorsement from Paul Collier

In Rule of the Clan on November 5, 2012 at 11:16 am

I’m very pleased to report that The Rule of the Clan has received a jacket endorsement from economist Paul Collier, Director for the Center for the Study of African Economies at the University of Oxford, former director of the Development Research Group of the World Bank, and author of The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can be Done About It. Prof. Collier writes:

The Rule of the Clan confronts an uncomfortable but important reality. In the process it challenges the careless liberal assumption that national identity is an anachronism and a strong state a threat.”

I’m delighted to receive this endorsement, which catches an essential part of the book’s argument about what modern liberal societies can learn from societies governed by “the rule of the clan.”

Argentina: Populism, the State and Positive Rights

In Affirmative action, Antitrust, Argentina, Constitutional law, Conversations, Cross-cultural encounters & comparisons, Economic regulation, Freedom of speech, Gender, Latin America, Race, Video on November 3, 2012 at 12:01 pm

My new post is entirely in video format. It’s a short conversation with an Argentinean scholar about constitutional law in his country, including some differences between law there and in the United States. Our conversation touches on affirmative action, gay marriage, voter identification, and economic regulation, among other important issues. My wife says it’s fascinating, and I hope you’ll agree.

To watch, just click on the thumbnail below, or to see it in larger format (which I’d recommend), click above on the title of this post and then click again on the video window: